Au musée du quotidien, l’ordinaire devient extraordinaire

In the museum of everyday life, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary

“One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure”. This old English proverb is reminiscent of the Museum of Everyday Life. Installed in an old barn in northern Vermont, he is interested in the hidden aesthetics of small objects (safety pins, old matchboxes, rusty keys, scissors). Far from being static, this place moves since, among other things, it organizes exhibitions related to the dynamics of our daily life. On its website, it bills itself as “an ongoing, groundbreaking museum experience based in Glover, Vermont. Our mission is an epic, slow classification of the mundane, a detailed, theatrical expression of gratitude and love for tiny, unglamorous life in all its forms. Here we celebrate the banality and mysterious joy that resides in the innocuous but much-loved objects we have access to every day. In pursuing this mission, we ask ourselves certain questions: “How about imagining a museum filled not with rare objects but with perfectly familiar pieces? “How about challenging traditional museums? and “How would it be possible to create assemblages of elements that open up essential and living connections between objects and people?” »

Ordinary objects that become extraordinary in this museum of everyday life. Photo from their Facebook page

Beyond the unusual

At least that’s what the creator of this museum, Claire Dolan, managed to do, who wanted to go beyond an unusual stopover. This Vermont-based nurse and puppeteer founded this mundane museum in 2011 after cleaning out her barn and realizing that she owned a large number of devices whose scope deserved to be highlighted far from any nostalgia. In doing so, she gave them three dimensions. The first is developed in the Faculty of Philosophy and leads to the production and publication of theoretical writings on human beings and their relationship to objects and methods of conservation. The second flourished in the Museum of Daily Life’s Performance Society, which put on puppet shows and other stage performances with a constant concern to question daily life through that of objects. Finally, Claire Dolan is interested in developing exhibitions that make the theory of our daily life more tangible and concrete. “Our special exhibitions have dealt with common objects, like the pencil, the safety pin, the mirror, the toothbrush, the match, the locks, the keys and the scissors,” she explains on her website. . These exhibitions examine the objects in depth, tracing their origins and examining their lives throughout history in relation to all manner of human experiences. These special exhibitions call for the contribution of many people from different backgrounds (students, neighbors, collectors, artists), whose contribution enriches the event.

The entrance to the museum. Photo from their Facebook page

From art to art

Currently and under the title Becoming Clean, the picture ledges of the everyday museum continue to develop the topic of cleanliness. As soon as you enter this unusual space, the visitor hears the sound of running water in front of an old filled bathtub surrounded by everything necessary for a good bath: sponges, scrubbing items, various soaps and detergents, old porcelain faucet handles, bidets , basins for soaking feet, rubber duckies for children and vintage posters showing how to properly wash your hands. A pamphlet explains the installation: “From bourgeois enamel bathtubs to the sand baths of desert nomads, from baptisms to public baths, humanity has developed an enormous variety of strategies to respond to the ongoing urge to ‘cleanse’. Is the state of being dirty eternal? How do we experience physical impurity? What daily habits and rituals make us feel liberated?

What other types of non-physical impurities does this washing involve? Lady Macbeth’s endless washing of hands begs the question: Can we really get clean? »

Note that the phrase “becoming clean” is often used figuratively, meaning “to get rid of an addiction.”

A preview of the current exhibition entitled “Becoming Clean”. Photo from their Facebook page.

Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence

From the so-called small things in life, Claire Dolan has drawn large, carefully crafted thematic installations that push the boundaries of arsty to art. His museum is also a partner in the Banners and Cranks Festival, an annual touring event featuring songs and eccentric performances. The other peculiarity of this place is that it operates as a self-service establishment and visitors are fully trusted. When they arrive they will find no one to welcome them. They are simply asked to turn on the lights, enter and spend as much time in these places as they like. A small sign reminds them to turn off the lights before they leave. Everything becomes extraordinary in this museum of the ordinary. Which is reminiscent of the magnificent Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. The work of the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Prize in Literature, 2016), which brings together more than a thousand everyday objects from his novel of the same name in a house full of poetry and mystery.

“One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure”. This old English proverb is reminiscent of the Museum of Everyday Life. Installed in an old barn in northern Vermont, he is interested in the hidden aesthetics of small objects (safety pins, old boxes…


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